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Montreal - The Drug Turntable For North America

9.00pm Thursday 24 May 2001

Montreal, Quebec

A four year international drug operation by Royal Canadian Mounted Police has ended with the arrest today, of 23 people involved in trafficking and importing cocaine, hashish and heroin into Montreal.

Among those arrested are four Colombians all of whom will be extradited to Canada.

A major drug ring originating in Columbia has been dismantled. An employee at the Port of Montreal has also been arrested. Police say the employee worked for a private company at the Port. He helped ships & containers to bypass Customs.

RCMP say they carried out the operation in four phases, using undercover agents to break up the four criminal groups that were involved in importing the drugs. These groups had connections to the Italian Mafia in Montreal, and what an RCMP spokesman described as an 'important Colombian organisation'.

It is the second major drug seizure in Montreal in the past few days.

On Friday Canada Customs seized almost 860,000 Ecstasy tabs worth more than $C30 million at Montreal's Dorval airport, while checking a pallet of boxes being unloaded from KLM Flight 671 from Amsterdam. The 24 plastic wrapped boxes destined for a textile company in Montreal were identified as sheets.

The Customs Officers opened the suspect boxes only to discover many of them were empty. But in eight of the remaining boxes they found a huge quantity of Ecstasy that was four times the number of tabs seized last December at the Port of Montreal. Customs and Royal Canadian Mounted Police kept the cargo under covert surveillance. A 35 year old man was arrested on Saturday when he called at the airport to collect the drug consignment. The courier was a resident of Montreal.

A spokesman for the RCMP drug section in Montreal, Corporal Jean Ratté, says 'Montreal is now the primary transit hub for drug trafficking in North America.'

He says illegal biker gangs usually control chemical drug importations, but it has now become so profitable that new groups & individuals are becoming involved in drug trafficking.

Customs Officers at Montreal's Dorval & Mirabel airports seized over $C150 million worth of illegal drugs such as cocaine, hashish, ecstasy, steroids, between 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2001.

'The location of both these airports, the volume of cargo traffic carried on the St Lawrence River and their proximity to the United States make Montreal a turntable for drug transhipments in North America,' Corporal Ratté said.

Ends

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